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From the Joachim Competition: Final Round Heats up

Heather Kurzbauer

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Published: October 8, 2015 at 10:14 PM [UTC]

Is it possible for a group of individuals chosen because of their expertise to adjudicate fairly? How do individual members of a jury listen? Privileged to have served on the Special Jury at the 9th Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition, these questions have been posed numerous times and deserve both careful analysis and full disclosure.

A special jury, the Critics Jury was a feature at two prior sessions of the Joachim contest (2009; 2012). Music critics representing a variety of media cast a separate, independent vote based on reactions to the semifinal and final performance rounds. Aside from the traditional admonitions to adhere to ethical behavior and a ban on early disclosure (no results were permitted to ‘leak’ to the press) the critics were free to decide according to their own rules. The 2009 Critics Jury was well nigh unanimous (one dissenting vote) in their choice of Tobias Feldman as winner, diverging from the mainstream jury’s choices. In 2012, both juries chose the same winner without reverting to any form of consultation: Fumiaki Miura.

This blogger remembers relaxed discussions on music, the ins and outs of competition life and the pros and cons of the competitive arena. German colleagues steeped in classical philosophy and Frankfurt School analysis brought a different form of consideration to the table. My guiding light queries: “does it speak? Would I want to attend a recital given by player x or y?” inspired initial skepticism before my worthy colleagues found a modicum of validity in my non-philosophical view.

The 2015 Special Jury was given the task to compare then twelve performances of David Robert Coleman’s "Cut up" in the semifinals and come to a consensus as to who was most deserving of the 3000 Euro prize. Stay tuned to this website for the info tomorrow!

Armed with copies of the score, four critics and the composer found their own ways to consensus. Without any form of prior consultation, two and only two candidates piqued our interest. The first criteria, the all-important ‘take the score seriously and play what is actually there’ was paramount.

The first night of the final round was opened by Amalia Hall’s chance to shine in the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Perhaps ill at ease with a less than acceptable instrument, Hall tried her best to project over the substantial orchestral sound produced by the NDR orchestra. Unfortunately she often fell into the habit of vibrating on every other note instead of carrying the sound. Her interpretation never rose above the ‘better safe than sorry’ school of playing: secure, neat and tidy but alas, no poetry, fire or storytelling to grace Sibelius’ 150th birth year.

Sergei Dogadin
Sergei Dogadin. Photo by Benjamin Bonouvrier.

That Sergei Dogadin had attained a higher level of technical proficiently than the first candidate cannot be contested. A luscious sound and finely tuned bow arm are but two of the tools of the trade that aided his projection of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto. Every iota of Dogadin’s performance smacked of perfection:

Benjamin Marquise Gilmore is simply incapable of playing an ugly note, a false accent or misplaced Blessed with the ability to spin long lines of almost unbearable sweetness, his Beethoven graced the hall with a sinuous elasticity that brought back memories of great performances by Frank Peter Zimmerman. His cadenzas were questionably original in the context of a competition where the jury might be ruffled by too much change.

Two performances worth waiting for: the world is not only watching but listening with the greatest admiration.

If you wish to hear performances from the Joachim Competition: Click here to listen to the livestream and click here to view archived performances.

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